review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

dream thievesOh, Maggie. Dearest Maggie (Steve-otter is the correct pronunciation). You have, once again, rocked my world. (This would be a good time to link back to my review of the first book in the Raven Boys trilogy…but alas, I somehow didn’t review it when I read it earlier this year. That really upsets me. What was I doing that I forgot to revi…oh yeah. I read it when I was home sick the week before my wedding. Yeah…some things got away from me. Forgive me.)

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(We had post bridal photos taken last month out in Ranson, West Virginia. Our photographer is incredible and I just had to share this since I mentioned my wedding. And also because I love my dress. I sometimes wear it when I vacuum the house.)

Back to the book. (Like we every really got started on it…)

The Dream Thieves picks up where The Raven Boys let off, and it begins quickly. Blue is still trying to figure out what she is doing in life, as are her boys Adam, Ronan, Gansey, and Noah. Unfortunately two new men enter the story – both are dangerous and deadly and mean harm. But they are dynamic and fascinating, and readers (and unfortunately, characters) are drawn to them.

I loved that this book included more of Blue’s family. Her mom and aunts are the perfect characters to counter-balance Blue’s sarcasm.

Then Maura made something with butter and Calla made something with bacon and Blue steamed broccoli in self-defense.

 

Their presence in the pages gives readers a better understanding of who Blue is. Her mom’s interest in the dangerous Grey Man is intoxicating’y romantic.

She ordered for them. Neither drank any wine. The appetizers were delicious, not because of the kitchen, but because all food eaten in anticipation of a kiss is delicious.

Gansey isn’t the main male attraction in this novel. Instead, another one of the Raven Boys takes center stage, and he really lights up the pages. Getting into his head was thrilling and so, so sad.

If you never saw the stars, candles were enough.

I’ve mentioned before that I typically don’t continue on with trilogies because I tend to be disappointed. But I am oh, so glad I did read this one. I want to drop in on Maggie (she lives in Virginia!) and ask her about the last book. Think she’ll tell me about the third book?

Recommended for: 
You definitely need to read the first book before reading this one. Period. The story totally builds off the one that began with book one. Any girl who reads YA – be it fantasy, contemporary, or dystoia – will enjoy this series.

Read-alikes:
The Diviners by Libba Bray was similarly humorous and dark.

 

Wednesday reads: Dreams and Reality

A coworker loves to point out when the universe provides, or connects things in a way that seems uncanny. Last year I read Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (about a small Arkansas town that sees the return of a long-extinct bird and the vanishing of the narrator’s brother) and, for the first time in my life, read the term “ornithologist”. That very week I was hanging out with a friend who used the term to describe her dad’s hobby, and I knew the word! Thanks, universe! I find this happens to me quite often, in fact, and when I notice it I say out loud, “Thanks, universe!”.

And it JUST HAPPENED AGAIN. Yesterday morning a coworker brought me my ID saying she found it in the parking lot. And I get into work this morning and see a chain of emails about one of my employees misplacing his own badge, but finding it shortly after the search began.

Universe, you’re killing me! I love it!

Currently I am reading a book about a boy who can pull physical objects from his dreams, and another book where a man’s reality is the stuff dreams (okay, nightmares) are made of. Okay, so this one is a bit of a stretch, but still…go, universe.

dream thieves

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. I just haven’t had time to sit down and really get going on this, unfortunately, but only 25 pages in I can tell you I am very, very excited to keep going. I’ve read other reviews that say this is even better than the first, which is never true of the second book in a trilogy, so I’m intrigued.

 

house of

 

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. I wrote two weeks ago that this was going to take me some time to get through. That fact is still true. But I book-talked it in a job interview last week; one of the interviewers jotted down the title, and another recalled its popularity back in 2002 when it was released online.

 

 

to the end

 

To the End of June by Cris Beam. Last year I read Flight by Sherman Alexie, an intense novel about a foster child whose anger at the world takes him into the lobby of a bank, holding a gun. Subsequent time-travelling to various times and places teach him about himself, about perseverance, about courage. This non-fiction expose into the world of foster care in America interests me because Alexie’s story was fiction, but for millions of children it is pure truth.

Wednesday reads: Paris, Paris, Paris

Sometimes I get on a kick. My current kick (read: obsession) is Paris. Again. Listening to The Sharper Your Knives the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn doesn’t help. Nor does watching Julie & Julia. Or The Devil Wears Prada. You could argue that I am torturing myself, and I wouldn’t deny it. So why not continue my French obsession and read a graphic novel-memoir?*

french

 

French Milk by Lucy Knisley is the graphic representation of Lucy’s journal from the 6 weeks she spent in Paris with her mother – both of whom were celebrating monumental occasions – college graduation/entering adulthood and turning 50 years old. There are even a few black and white photographs included in the book, which are in stark contrast to the simple black and white drawings the author sketched.

 

dream thieves

 

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater!!!!! Ahhh!!!!! (That is all. I’d say “read my review of book 1” but I am embarrassed to say that I did not, in fact, write a review of it. I find that hard to believe, but, the blog don’t lie.)

 

 

*Yes, I know novel and memoir mean completely different things. But what if I’d written “graphic memoir”? You’d think I was reading the autobiography of Heidi Fleiss or something.

Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina

That’s the secret to performance: conviction. The right note played tentatively still misses its mark, but play boldly and no one will question you. If one believes there is truth in art – and I do – then it’s troubling how similar the skill of performing is to lying. Maybe lying is itself a kind of art. I think about that more than I should.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is the story of assistant music director and musical prodigy Seraphina. Residing in the Castle Orison with other court employees as well as the royal family, Seraphina is complacent with her simple though solitary life. But Seraphina should not exist.

Seraphina Dombegh is a grotesque, a human-dragon hybrid. As far as the Queen – and entire land of Goredd – is convinced, abominations such as Seraphina do not exist. Cannot exist. But Seraphina is a human girl with dragon scales around her forearm and her belly, hidden away by layers of sleeves and invisible walls. She lets no one in, for fear of unveiling her dark, forbidden secret. But when she hears news of an impending attack against the royal family and dragon leader Comonot, Seraphina struggles with hiding her own secret and exposing the one that will destroy the world she as she knows it.

Seraphina employs head of the royal guard Prince Lucian to aid her in her attempt to thwart the assassination of Comonot. Yet as their relationship grows, she reveals more of herself that she ever expected. She is deeply torn between lying to maintain the life she knows, or revealing all so she can be done with the heavy burden the lie imposes on her.

The attraction between Kiggs – Prince Lucian – and Seraphina is an avalanche, starting small and friendly, but growing into something reckless and intense. Seraphina and Kiggs dance at the Treaty Eve ball, where Seraphina begins to let her guard down.

A feeling rose in me, and I just let it, because what harm could it do? It only had another thirty-two adagio bars of life in this world. Twenty-four. Sixteen. Eight more bars in which I love you. Three. Two. One.

 Their attraction, and the action of hunting the rogue dragon, keep the plot of this fantasy novel going. But the smattering of religious and musical details construct a thorough, almost contemporary world. Despite the existance of dragons and the other-worldly setting, the world of Goredd is believe. The reader has heard such prejudiced and intolerant language, albiet directed at humans and not dragons. Hartman’s commentary on acceptance  – both societal and self – is powerful.

Recommended for:
I had not even listened to 3 (of 11) discs before I was recommending it to my sister, coworkers, and library patrons. The audiobook, read by Mandy Williams, is a very appropriate way to read this novel. Williams’ not-quite-placeable accent lends a lot to the fantasy world created by Hartman. I believe any reader can and will fall in love with this book, but the elements of romance, poor body esteem (the girl has scales…you’d be cranky, too), and family situation may resonate more with teenaged girls and woman.

Read-alikes:
Full disclosure: I don’t read a lot of fantasy. But of the books I am familiar with, might I recommend Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Both female protagonists are content with the status-quo…that is, until the day they aren’t any longer. Taylor’s creation of Eretz.

Book 77: Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

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Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor is the sequel to last Fall’s stunning fantasy spin on Romeo & Juliet, Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Karou has no family left, and has reluctantly succumbed to the chimaera leader, the White Wolf, and his small but mighty army. She has taken Brimstone’s task of resurrecting the dead chimaera, in an effort to keep the chimaera race alive and fighting. Meanwhile her former lover, the angel Akiva, has re-joined forces with the seraphs in destroying everything and everyone getting in between them and their enemy, even if the “everyone” includes very innocent bystanders.

This sequel picks up where the first left off, with broken hearts and mis-understandings. The two protagonists do what they must in order to survive and help their own people thrive, but keep thinking about the pact they made to each other, to work together to unite the feuding races.

Laini Taylor proves once more than she is a master crafter of other worlds. What she did for Prague and Elsewhere in Daughters she did for Morocco’s kasbah and the mythical palaces and countryside controlled by the seraph emperor Joram. Readers can feel the desert heat on their backs as Zuzana and Mik follow clues that lead to Karou, and can taste the spices Karou smells on her walk through the Moroccan market.

This book is a stunning follow-up to the first, and set itself up nicely to be continued for a third and final installment next fall. I find myself thinking about Karou and Akiva and the palpable rage that is separated only by a thin wall in the underground where the orphaned-seraph and chimaera are reluctantly joining forces in an attempt to end this war once and for all, and before it passes through the barrier into Earth.

You have only to begin, Lir. Mercy breeds mercy as slaughter breeds slaughter. We can’t expect the world to be better than we make it.

I reviewed the first book in the trilogy last September when I received an ARC (advanced reader copy, for all you non-librarians/book fanatics) from a library patron and friend who runs her own book review blog with her best friend and their kick-butt kids (no seriously, they will all grow up to be rock stars). If you are ever in need of a recommendation for your teen reader, head to their site. They will tell you what you need to know, from the parent’s standpoint. I really respect their objectivity. 

Book 59: Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins has been on my TBR pile since my future SIL told me about it last summer. Another Suzanne Collins series? I thought. Sure!

Eleven year-old Gregor is totally selfless and gave up his summer to babysit his two-year old sister Boots (Margaret, really, but the nickname stuck) while his mom works and his middle sister can attend summer camp. He doesn’t complain because he knows that ever since his dad disappeared over two years ago, life has been difficult for his mother. For Gregor, too, but he files  those feelings away in order to be helpful. One afternoon while putting the clothes in the dryer in the apartment complex’s laundry room, Boots and Gregor fall down the proverbial hole of children’s literature lore, into the Underland. He learns that his father is being held captive and so joins cockroaches and bats and Underland humans in a fight against the rats who are holding his dad against his will. Battle ensues, and action and adventure reign down on the pages (er, cds).

There are times it will be very hard to find. Times when it will be much easier to choose hate instead. But if you want to find peace, you must first be able to hope it is possible. -Vikas

I am glad I read it, because it is an action book with a young boy protagonist. Dime a dozen, right? Wrong. Gregor’s self-reflection, his maturity, and his sense of duty and honor all make for quite an inspiring story. I will recommend this to my young male readers, and those who like action, but who could also benefit from a more predictable storyline. I likely won’t continue with the series (oh, don’t be surprised. What was the last trilogy I continued after book 1? I didn’t even finish the sequels to Birthmarked, Need, Matched, or Uglies. I don’t have a very good track record with trilogies. I get bored. I want something new.

NEW! I tell you. NEW!

Sorry.)

Book 47: Shadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knuttson

Shadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knuttson is a well-told combination of mythology (what I presume to be Native American, but I know next to nothing about mythology so lets just pretend I didn’t presume anything), fantasy, romance, and dystopia. Plainly put: I’m actually happy to have read a fantasy novel. (Take a look at my “tags” y’all. See much fantasy?)

This is the story of Cass, a teen whose mother is dead, whose father is a good and gentle man, whose twin brother is distant and scared of his own abilities (or lack thereof, at time). Cass isn’t too sure of herself either, but knows that she is destined to help others. So when her family moves to the Island to live with the other aboriginals, she is taken under the wing of the Island’s medicine woman, and she thrives. But she also finds out that she may be destined for something much more dark and evil.

This eloquently written novel is a twist on the contemporary dystopian in that it includes beautiful elements of mythology. The inclusion of the helpful yet cunning Raven, the harmful yet strong sisiutal, and the myriad other creatures that live in the spirit world but have control over certain aspects of the physical world, were intriguing enough to keep someone like me – someone who dislikes anything not of-this-world – interested.

Stars, he once told me, don’t cast shadows, but how can that be? Everything has a dark side.

I will recommend this book to young women who are strong but silent, like Cass. I think they will find a kindred soul in the very thoughtful, caring, and calculated Cass. Knuttson created an Island that I would love to visit, using terminology and imagery that were both advanced and classic. I’d love to know your thoughts on this novel, or if you have read anything similar to it.

Side note to the publisher: Good job on not toting this as a fantasy novel. I would not have read this had I known of all of the mythological elements. The synopsis reads like a dystopian, but the novel turns, quick and unforgiving, from dystopic to fantasy. Thanks for tricking me. 🙂